NCF Nation: Los Angeles 0806

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- The second half provided no mystery. USC is back.

After a forgettable first quarter and a half, when they trailed, 10-3, the Trojans rolled up 34 consecutive points.

It was as though something clicked.  The team that buried Ohio State woke up and the team that looked so terrible at Oregon State went back into hibernation. The Trojans finished with 598 total yards and held the Ducks to just 223.

Oregon entered the game averaging 532 yards per game, which ranked sixth in the nation, and 309 yards rushing, which ranked fourth. Oregon State freshman Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 186 yards against the Trojans.

The Ducks had just 65 yards on the ground. The biggest worry in the second half was quarterback Mark Sanchez getting hurt on a sack from Nick Reed. But Sanchez only sat out one series before returning -- and then yielded for good to backup Mitch Mustain.

Apparently, Sanchez is OK. And so are the Trojans.

A sense of Pac-10 normalcy returns. As for the Ducks, they turn their sights to what the other nine Pac-10 teams will be eyeballing: Second place in the conference. When USC plays like this, no one can beat them.

The question is: Will the Trojans play like this the rest of the season, and, if so, will that be enough to get them back into the national title hunt.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- It didn't take long to erase the notion that an angry USC was going to take out its frustrations by physically manhandling poor, wide-eyed Oregon.

The Trojans weren't going to regain their mojo, lost during a disastrous performance at Oregon State, just by whipping themselves into a frenzy. They were going to have to play soundly and make plays. They did that in the first half. At times. And at times they didn't.

At times, in fact, they looked just like the sloppy, disjointed crew that lost its No. 1 ranking and had much of the college football nation writing them out of the national title picture.

But when things clicked into place -- my, oh, my.

USC started to look like the team that buried Ohio State three weeks ago in the second quarter, when it exploded for 24 unanswered points to jump ahead 27-10. Mark Sanchez's halftime numbers: 13 of 18 for 233 yards and three touchdowns.

The technical term for that is: really good.

Let's not forget a very important fact about the Trojans shot at redemption: It's coming against a very good team that, when it can keep a quarterback healthy, is as potent on offense as anybody in the nation.

It was hardly a picture-perfect for USC.

The Trojans gave up 179 yards to the Ducks, who were 5 of 11 on third downs. They were flagged seven times for 61 yards, three times extending Ducks drives that appeared over.

But things seemed to take a USC turn after, on fourth and 2 from the Ducks 34, Sanchez found a wide-open Damian Williams for a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10.

The Trojans get the ball to start the second half, and another touchdown could make things very difficult on Oregon. But don't be too quick to count out the Ducks. Their offense works at a fast pace, and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (12 of 19 for 103 yards) has looked solid.

There may be some plot twists remaining.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Oregon should feel right at home tonight. It's cloudy and cool (68 degrees) with a chance of showers. Just like it is much of the year in Eugene.

  

The winner tonight between No. 9 USC (2-1, 0-1 Pac-10) and No. 23 Oregon (4-1, 2-0), however, figures to feel pretty sunny. That team will walk away as the Pac-10 front-runner, though California, a future foe for both, might have something to say about that.

Oregon does boast a 5-3 record in its last eight meetings against the Trojans, including a 24-17 win last year.

The last time the Ducks visited the Coliseum in 2006, though, they got thudded 35-10. The Trojans were coming off a loss to Oregon State then, too. The last time USC coach Pete Carroll lost consecutive games against Pac-10 foes?

Never.

He's also 7-0 against conference teams that beat him the year before, delivering retribution by a 248-114 count. A team hasn't won two in a row against the the Trojans since 2001-02 (Kansas State), Carroll's first two seasons at Troy. Carroll's first season, when USC finished 6-6, is also the last time the Trojans lost consecutive games.

USC is riding a 25-game winning streak in the Coliseum.

And the Oregon programs haven't swept USC since 1957.

So, in other words, there are plenty of trends and factoids that suggest USC will make a statement to the nation tonight that it is premature to count the Trojans out of the national title hunt.

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